Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rysdam Family Christmas

We always celebrate Christmas with our little family and Andy's mom the weekend before Christmas. We do this for several reasons. First, who doesn't love another Christmas party and reason to make yummy food?!? Secondly, we're often in NJ for Christmas, so this gives us a chance to celebrate with Andy's mom, and finally, it spreads out the gift-giving and celebrations a bit more (great for Kaden so he doesn't get too much all at once!).

This year if you asked Kaden what he wanted for Christmas, he'd tell you he wanted a space gun. Now, upon asking him for more details about this gun, he couldn't tell you what it looked like or where he had seen one. In fact, I'm pretty sure he made it up because space guns don't really exist. I was already done Christmas shopping for Kaden before he decided he needed a space gun, of course. I like to shop all year long when I find good deals online, clearance in stores, garage sales, etc., so then when celebrations come up I'm prepared with gifts and haven't broken the budget! However, I knew I wanted to try and make this little boy happy and give him a space gun. I made a trip to Target to find something that could possibly be a space gun and found this Buzz Lightyear laser gun that shoots out nerf darts. It even made a space-like sound. I almost did a hop, skip and a jump right there in the store. I was very excited for Kaden to open his space gun, and when he did, he screamed and said, "A space gun! This is what I've always wanted!!" Jackpot for mom. Woo whoo!! :)

Opening his space gun

Apparently this is what you do when you're wearing a space gun?!?

We had such a nice night celebrating with our little Rysdam family, and it was a blessing to share the joy of the season with each other. We are blessed!

Showing Grandma the annual calendar I made for her

Opening his MI Wolverine Pillow Pet!

Giving Grandma a hug after we gave her a Grandma's necklace from The Vintage Pearl

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Advent- Days 21-25

I was so close to blogging about every day in Advent here at our house, but I just didn't quite make it. The time leading up to our trip to NJ went by really fast, and before you know it, we were in NJ celebrating Christmas. It's not that we didn't do any Advent activities, they were just done in NJ. Some I have pictures of, and some I don't. Our book reading got a little off schedule, but we did bring our special Christmas books with us to NJ. Some of the activities we did either on the road or in NJ were: sing favorite Christmas carols, have hot chocolate, read a favorite Christmas story, research another country's holiday traditions, and celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas!

The one moment I want to highlight is when Kaden opened his special book on Christmas night. The book I saved for Christmas was: God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Bergren. My whole family sat in my parent's living room by the fire and Andy read the book to everyone. It was such a special moment, and something I'd like to make a new tradition. It felt so nice to just be quiet and listen to a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas amongst all of the busyness of the day. I'll never forget that moment. When Andy was done reading the book I tried to get Kaden to sing a few Christmas songs, but that didn't go over so well. Maybe we'll try that next year.

Here's a picture of Andy reading the book to all of us:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent- Day 20

Day 20: Make a Gingerbread House

This was our first time making a gingerbread house together. I bought an awesome kit at Costco, which made it SO easy to decorate- again, perfect for little hands. The house can pre-assembled, so all we needed to do was decorate it. I'll definitely use this Wilton Gingerbread house kit again sometime! We decided to bring the kit with us to NJ so we'd have something fun to do while we were there. What you'll notice in the pictures is that it started with Kaden and my mom working on it, then slowly more family members joined in the fun. Who would have thought it would take so many people to make it look so nice?

Kaden and Grandma working on the house

Who is having more fun here?!?

Uncle Brian helping Kaden make the gingerbread man- he was the guard for the house.

The whole family gets involved here. We're such a crafty bunch! :)

The final product- pretty cool looking, huh?

Today's book choice was: The Little Fir Tree

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent- Day 19

Day 19: Make a Christmas craft

At the end of every Christmas season, I like to look for deals on Christmas crafts. I'm a crafty person myself, and Kaden is proving to be pretty crafty, too. There are so many cute Christmas craft kits out there that make the perfect projects for little hands. Today we make ornaments together. It was such a simple, easy craft- no glue (yay!) and perfect for a 3 1/2 yr. old!

Decorating his ornament

So proud of his craft!

Today's book choice was: Christmas in the Big Woods

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent- Day 18

Day 18: Finish this sentence- "To me, Christmas means..."

I'll be honest. When I first asked Kaden this question, he answered, "my space gun." At the age of 3, Christmas is still about getting what you've always wished for. We're working on that with Kaden. After I told him to tell me something he liked about Christmas- not a present, he answered, "going to NJ." Now this was the answer I was hoping for the first time I asked the question. Kaden associates Christmas with NJ since we've been in NJ for 3 out of the 4 Christmases in his life. He LOVES being at Grandpa and Grandma's house and spending time with his 2nd cousins and extended family. I love spending time with family at Christmas, too!
Next year Christmas will be here in MI, so hopefully Kaden still thinks it's Christmas! :)

Today's book choice was: Corduroy's Christmas Surprise

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent- Day 17

Day 17: Read Luke 1:26-38 together

Another version of the Christmas story today! Click here if you'd like to read what we did!

Today's book choice was: The Night Before Christmas.

*Just a little side note about this one. Andy read this aloud to everyone tonight while we sat on the couch and looked at the pictures. After he was done reading, we joked that we couldn't help but picture the scene from Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold read the family the same story. Thankfully our reading wasn't as chaotic as the Griswold's was :)

Advent- Day 16

Day 16: Read Matthew 1:18-24

I like that the Advent activities we're doing provide us with multiple versions of Christ's birth from The Bible. It helps us keep it all in perspective. It also amazes me how Kaden picks up different pieces of the story and tells his own version of the story. Each time he gets the basics- Mary was having a baby, Jesus was born, the animals were there, people brought him presents. Lately, he insists that "Jesus died on the cross to die, and THEN he was born in a manger, Mom." Hmm.... looks like we still have some work to do on that one.

Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son- Matthew 1:18-24
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e]did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Today's book choice was: If you take a mouse to the movies

Advent- Day 15

Day 15: Listen to Christmas music

Today we had a dance party in the kitchen. We plugged the ipod into the sound dock, turned the TV off, and blasted the Christmas music. No one snapped a picture, but the moment sticks in my mind. I could have thought of a million other things to do that night instead of dance to Christmas music, but something about holding hands with my little boy and dancing away in the kitchen seemed much more important to me.

Kaden loves singing Christmas carols (advent day to come on this), and he also loves listening to Christmas music. He gets very excited when he hears a song that he knows and he starts singing his little heart out.

There's just something about Christmas music that makes the season so special to me. I'm not sure what it is, maybe it's because I love music in general, maybe it's because you only listen to it for a short time, maybe it's because singers of all ages and genres come together to sing the same songs...... whatever it is, Christmas music is heard in our car or home every day this season, starting the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's.
Today's book choice was: Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers (out of print)

Advent- Day 14

Day 14: Go sledding

Well, if you live near us, you know there isn't an ounce of snow on the ground, which makes it difficult to go sledding. Leave it to Kaden to improvise. He came up with this completely on his own. He's snowboarding in the house. Notice that he's equipped with a bike helmet, work goggles, a long-sleeved pj top, his MI jersey, fleece mittens, shorts under his fleece pants, rainboots, and the top of a play ironing board for his snowboard. Kaden is one of the most creative kids I know. He's always imagining things and making some sort of costume for himself. It keeps us laughing! :)

Today's book choice was I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent- Day 13

Day 13: Watch a Christmas Movie

I love that so many kids Christmas movies have been on TV lately. It seems like every night there is something for Kaden to watch, and a lot of the holiday specials are even just 30 minutes, which is perfect for him. We've done a lot of watching Christmas movies lately- Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story for us, and Shrek Christmas, Ice Age Christmas, Bob the Builder Christmas, Caillou Christmas, and others for Kaden. Makes for fun nights as we cuddle up as a family with homemade popcorn and a sleeping bag in Kaden's case. Almost every time we watch a movie together as a family, Kaden says, "I love family movie night." I love that he cherishes the time we spend together as a family and I hope it will always be "cool" for him to watch movies with his sisters and mom and dad.

Today's book choice was My Christmas Stocking by Crystal Bouwman (no longer in publication)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent- Day 12

Day 12: Buy a gift for someone in need

I apologize for the hold-up in posting. We got a little behind from this day, which delayed the updates! Anyways, I took Kaden to Target to purchase a gift for a boy in need. We planned on donating the toy through Angel Tree, and I wanted Kaden to pick it out so it was more meaningful. We spent 20 minutes in the toy section at Target, and Kaden finally decided he wanted the boy to have a Sponge Bob fishing game. I was thankful he didn't choose that for himself since I'm not a fan of character games, nor am I a fan of Sponge Bob stuff. I explained to him that we were going to give it to a boy who wasn't going to get presents this year and that it would make him very happy. Of course while we were there looking at the toys Kaden had to pick out something that he could spend his own money on, and after a very indecisive process, he decided on a Superman transformer. Once we got home, he of course decided that he wanted to keep the Sponge Bob toy, and he wanted a different transformer than the one he chose. Sorry, buddy. You have to face the consequences of your decisions and keep the Superman toy. And, no, you're not going to keep the toy for the boy in need. After a temper tantrum, a lecture, and a quote from Kaden that he called the boy on his cell phone and insisted the boy didn't want the toy anymore, we let it rest for the day.

On delivery day, I wanted to bring it to an Angel Tree drop-off location that allowed participants to place the gifts under a tree. In the past I had always done this at Talsma Furniture and it was great to put gifts under their Angel Tree for those in need. However, they were not a participating location this year, so we checked on drop-off locations and saw that the new Y right by our house was a drop-off location. I wanted to take a picture of Kaden dropping off his toy and I sent daddy to bring it with him. I was very disappointed to find out that the lady behind the front desk at the Y just took the gift from Kaden and put it in the back. What a letdown and non-photogenic moment. I think Kaden actually thought the needy boy was going to be there, and seemed confused by it all.

I was beginning to think that Kaden was missing the point of this whole experience. However, the next day he came out of his room with his pillowcase full of stuff. He said, "Mom, these are toys for the boy whose Mommy and Daddy don't have any money to buy him some for Christmas." What a sweetheart. I guess the idea of giving and not receiving really started to stick with him. I'm proud of my little boy.

Today's book choice was: S is for Star, A Christmas Alphabet by Cynthia Reynolds

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Capturing Conversations

A boy moment...

Me: Kaden, did you fart?
Kaden: Yes, I like to fart. It's my favorite thing in the whole world.

We went to the store to buy a gift to donate to a boy in need this Christmas. Kaden had a temper tantrum when we got home- too much stimulation in the toy aisle and threw a fit about wanting to keep the book for himself. Conversation at the dinner table:

Me: Kaden, that toy isn't for you. It's for a boy whose parents can't buy him anything this year.
Kaden: No it's not!!!
Me: It's nice to share and give things to other people at Christmas. God wants us to be nice to others.
Kaden: The boy doesn't want it!
Me: I'm sure that he does.
Kaden: No he doesn't! I called him on his cell phone and asked him.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ordinary Acts

I came across this saying the other day, and it was something I really needed to hear that day:

I couldn't agree more. How could someone NOT love the ordinary acts of smiles from 9-week old identical twin girls?!? The more time I spend at home with the girls, the more my heart is warmed and full of love for my children!



Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent- Day 11

Day 11: Celebrate Christmas locally

I like this Advent option because it's open-ended and can change year to year. Today we chose to make our Advent focus at church. Kaden has his Christmas program at church, and then we got to experience the live nativity at church after the program was done. It was so cute to see Kaden and all of the 3-5 year olds perform in their program. We'd been practicing his songs for a month now, and he knew them so well. He did GREAT- sang when he was supposed to and sat on the stage so nicely. I was so proud of him! It was hard to believe that I have a child old enough to be in a Christmas program.... wow, time sure does fly.

"This Little Light of Mine"

"Away in a Manger"

"Silent Night" Don't mind the heads of the people in front of us in the picture.

Kaden also loved seeing all of the animals outside and the live nativity. He really understands more of the Christmas story this year, and I could tell he was processing everything when he saw Mary, Joseph, the donkey and Baby Jesus in the manger. I'm pretty sure he thought that the middle school actors were REALLY Mary and Joseph. We're working on helping him understand that Jesus was born a really long time ago, but we can celebrate by acting it out each year.

Yummy donuts and hot chocolate- one of the best parts of the live nativity!!

Acting out the nativity (I must admit... found this picture from 2 years ago when there was snow on the ground. However, it looked the same this year, just without the snow! :)

Today's book choice was: Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent- Days 9 & 10

Days 9 & 10: Bake cookies

Okay, so baking cookies doesn't really take two days, but (1) sometimes things take longer than they should in this household right now, and (2), day 10 was supposed to be "go build a snowman" which wasn't possible because we have no snow! So, we decided to let the fun last for two whole days! :) Kaden and I made the cookies at night and then in the morning on day 10, we decorated them. He did so great decorating them- carefully using his plastic knife to slowly and precisely cover the cookies with frosting. I love doing things with just Kaden every once in awhile. It reminds me of what a cool kid he is and how crafty he likes to be. Wonder where he gets that from?!? :)

Daddy helped us bake cookies by holding the girls! :)

Cutting out the shapes

Putting sprinkles on

Second day of cookies- frosting them!

Look, Mom- I'm doing it all by myself!

Licking in the plastic knife- I'm a great mom. Don't worry, he didn't cut his tongue off.

Today's book choice was: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (We opened the book on Day 9, but didn't read it until Day 10 because Day 9's bedtime was much later than normal thanks to a fun night with friends over!)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent- Day 8

Day 8: Share a memory from past Christmas'

When I asked Kaden what he remembered from last year's Christmas, he immediately said he remembered when Daddy got "one of those silly fishing pole golf clubs." My Dad found some golf clubs that also looked like fishing poles- you could reel in the golf ball with the pole after you hit the golf ball. Each guy in the family got their own for Christmas, and it was a big hit among everyone. Of course they kept breaking, and I'm not sure that anyone's actually functions a year later. However, Kaden still remembered that and clearly it made an impression on him. I found a picture of one on the internet, which looks pretty similar to the one the guys got:

Kaden also said he remembered that it snowed a lot and Uncle Brian had to snowblow at Grandpa's house. You can read about last Christmas' blizzard in NJ here.

I'm wondering what he'll remember from this year's Christmas. I can't wait to make more memories for him!

The book choice for today was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Advent- Day 7

Day 7: Make paper snowflakes

Kaden loves doing crafts, so this was an advent activity right up his alley. Plus, he got to do it alone with his daddy which was also special for him!

Showing off his snowflakes



Book choice for today: Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki *I LOVE this book because Santa tells the real (Biblical) story of Christmas and breaks the truth to everyone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent- Day 6

Day 6: Celebrate Sinterklaas

Another disclaimer here. We're not celebrating Sinterklaas as a person, as in celebrating Santa. Those of you who know me well know that Santa is NOT a belief we have in this family, and Kaden already knows that Santa is fake. He knows that Christmas is all about Jesus and that Santa just distracts us from the true meaning of Christmas. The reason why Sinterklaas is part of our Advent celebration is more of a celebration of our heritage. Remembering what Dutch traditions we have, celebrating our Dutch heritage, learning about Christmas traditions around the world, and celebrating the giving of gifts to other people. So, in Dutch tradition, each child has their own pair of Klompen, which Kaden placed by the door in line with the old tradition. We told him that in the morning there might be a surprise in his wooden shoes.

Indeed there was. He asked if we put it in there, and we told him, yes. It's fun celebrating our Dutch heritage in such a simple but fun way. Each year our children will get something chocolate and a special treat. This year Kaden was going to get the traditional Dutch letter "K" but instead I found some adorable chocolate tools which I couldn't pass up. He also got a Max and Ruby Christmas video as a special treat this Christmas season. He was happy!

Book choice today: A Star for Jesus by Crystal Bowman

Advent- Day 5

Day 5: Address and mail Christmas cards

Believe it or not, I haven't even ordered our Christmas cards yet. I have an excuse, though.... actually 3 excuses under the age of 3. Usually I'm on top of those things. I have our Christmas card ready to go online, just waiting to drag the picture in and click "submit" on my order. We're waiting on a picture from the photographer at my brother's wedding since she took some pictures of the 5 of us. I'm hoping one of the pictures turned out cute enough to use for our cards. Once we get the picture, I'll order my own cards. I have the address labels ready to go already, so I think I've done my part on this advent day.

I wanted to give Kaden a chance to make and address his own cards, so we spent some more time being crafty and he made cards. He made one that he specifically wanted to mail to his Uncle Steve and Aunt Kelly, so that went in the mail to them.

The book Kaden chose today was: The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent- Day 4

Day 4: Make Christmas gift tags

Kaden loves being crafty, so making Christmas gift tags with his mommy was the perfect way to spend our night!

Book choice: Mary's Baby by Jane Chapman

Advent- Day 3

Day 3: Read Luke 2:1-20 together

I know this may sound bad, but it's not often that we've read stories directly out of The Bible with Kaden. Typically we read stories from his story Bible, since the language is much more kid-friendly for 3-yr olds. However, for Day 3 of Advent, we wanted to read the Christmas story directly out of The Bible. At first Kaden wanted to know where the pictures were, but accepted the fact that there were no pictures- only words that tell us all about Jesus. He thought it was pretty cool that he got to read another story before bed (besides the present story he opened), and has been walking around carrying my Bible with him ever since. After church today(day 4), he sat down on our bed and told us the Christmas story. It went something like this:
"One day, Mary had a baby in her tummy. Her tummy was really, really huge because baby Jesus was in there. Mary had the baby in the manger and Jesus slept on the hay. The End."

I think we'll work on getting some of the other details in there, but I think he gets the gist of the story. Jesus is born! :)

Today's book choice was We Believe in Christmas by Karen Kingsbury.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent- Day 2

Day 2: Go out to look at Christmas lights after dark

So, that is what we did! We all especially liked this house, whose lights moved to the music on 106.7. Pretty cool! :)

The book Kaden chose to unwrap before bed tonight was "Angel, Angel!" I really love this book, and so does Kaden, because he can "read" it all by himself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Season- Day 1

I've had several people ask me what we do for Advent in our home, so I thought I'd share that with you. We do a few things around here... some smaller, and some more significant. For the small traditions, Kaden has a paper chain which helps him count down to Christmas. Nothing major or creative, but he loves it anyway. We also have one of the traditional chocolate Advent calendars. I had those growing up, and it's neat to have Kaden look forward to his piece of chocolate each day just like I did when I was growing up.

We have 2 other more significant Advent traditions around here. The first is the Christmas book basket. I have accumulated a lot of Christmas books over the years, and wanted to find a way to get Kaden to take time to look at all of them and show interest in them. Each year I choose 25 books out of my Christmas book stash and wrap them up. Each night Kaden gets to choose a book, unwrap it, and that becomes his bedtime story for the night. It's a simple thing that gets Kaden excited about reading the books (he enjoys reading books anyway, so this adds to the fun), he gets to open a present, it doesn't cost me any money (okay, 1 roll of wrapping paper I got on sale for 66 cents), and it avoids an argument at bedtime over which book we're going to read. One book in the basket is wrapped in a special bag (which I had to sew of course), and that is saved for Christmas day.
Our Christmas book basket

Basket with the special book bag for Christmas Day

Kaden opening his first book on day one. The book he chose for Advent day #1 was: Who is coming to our house?

The second more significant tradition is our Advent tree. Each day on the calendar has a special activity to do. People choose to count down to Christmas in a variety of ways, and I chose to treat it like an actual calendar- starting at 1 and going to 25. So #1 is actually December 1, rather than 1 day left until Christmas. To keep you in suspense a bit, I decided to post each day about what activities we're doing from our calendar.

Day 1: Decorate the Christmas Tree

We were going to let Kaden put up all the ornaments, and then leave them where he put them (at the bottom half of the tree of course), but then he wanted his mom and dad to help, so the ornaments got a bit more balanced all over the tree. :)

Concentrating as he put the ornaments on the tree

Makenna enjoyed the decorating from her swing

Mommy and Maya observing the decorating

Maya, clearly enthused.

Are we done yet, guys? I'm tired.

Come back every day from now until Christmas to see what Advent activities we do from our Advent tree, and to see what books we're reading. I'm not going to link my blog to FB for all of these posts because I don't want to fill up your newsfeed, so if you're interested in the activities, you'll have to remember to check back. I look forward to sharing our traditions with you this Christmas season.